Research on Neutrinos and NuLat

NuLat is currently under construction and being tested at UH Manoa and Virginia Tech. It is a compact, segmented, fast-timing anti-neutrino detector that aims to detect neutrinos at short baselines.

What are neutrinos? Neutrinos are small (nearly massless) subatomic particles with no charge. More specifically, they are fermions that interact only via the weak nuclear force and gravity, making them very difficult to detect. Currently, there are three known neutrinos, the electron neutrino, muon neutrino, and tau neutrino, though there may be a fourth 'sterile neutrino' that does not interact with the nuclear force. Below, we see the neutrinos as included in the standard model of elementary particles:

Standard model particle chart

Research on Neutrinos
There are several active branches of research related to neutrinos:
            DeGrasse Tyson rows through a digital recreation of Super-K,
            a very large neutrino detector in Japan

Possible applications for compact neutrino detectors include nuclear non-proliferation studies, compact reactor monitoring, remote reactor monitoring, hunts for nuclear material and contaminants spread by hostile entities, sterile neutrino searches, and studies of nuclear decay chains.


Neutrinos offer a fresh window into such nuclear processes, whether they're occurring inside a reactor, a weapon, a star, or the center of the Earth. As uncharged particle, they easily pass through large amounts of matter and shielding, giving us an early hint at what's happening inside.

For example, a neutrino detector could be deployed outside of a well-shielded facility to observe reaction rates inside. This might be beneficial in the event of an emergency, or as a backup to existing systems. Studies of the neutrino energy spectrum from reactors are also beginning to shed light on the complex decay chains inside, which are not always well-documented or fully understood, partly due to the pandemonium effect.

There may also be other undiscovered possibilities. When the electron was discovered by J. J. Thomson in 1897, it would have been almost impossible for him to imagine the plethora of technologies and devices that utilize our understanding of the humble particle today. Likewise, though they may seem tiny and insignificant, neutrinos may have untold secret utilities that await discovery by the physicists of the future.